Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Being Different is Terrifying

I have no idea where I’m going to be in a year. I’m not even 100% sure I know where I’ll be in six months. Yes, most of this is a life choice, but the larger part of the reason is that I have to accept that there is a large part of me that WANTS this.
It’s hard to explain, but the unknown is something my body craves like a woman on PMS craves chocolate dipped in chocolate. I can tell you what my life plan is for the next five years, but I cannot tell you WHERE, because WHERE is something that has to change or I begin to wilt.
I like to think that I’m not a flake. I like to think that my friends love me despite the fact that as we grow older their lives become more stable as mine becomes less so. Even when I think about my future and what I would like to accomplish and what stable would mean for me, I still think of it in terms of dividing my time between a couple different countries during the year.
Contrary to popular belief, I do not enjoy being different. I am almost ashamed when I tell people where I’m going next, and I wince when people ask, “Where are you living now?” because the context is different when you’re asking me. In fact, it causes a lot of anxiety in my life.
I have no idea if I will be able to pay the rent in two months. I need a couple oral surgeries, but have no idea how long I will need to postpone them to save up the money for them, because at this point I can’t actually save ANY money. My car is literally rusting out, and all I can do is hope that it continues well past the 250,000 miles it’s about to turn over.
All of this is because I wanted to be different: I wanted to make money doing what I loved on my own terms. Here I am: living the life I wanted, on my terms, and having no idea of those terms will support me. I am justifiably, secretly, UTTERLY afraid.
They say that you have to give a business three years to become profitable. I am not even officially out of my first year of having a business. I have a product that will come out before Christmas that should ease the tension, especially if it does as well as I think it will, and also because I will do many things different this time than I did with the first book. I tell myself these things all the time; I have all sorts of logical reasons that I have absolutely no need to be afraid. First of all, I can get a job if I need it. Second, even if I never sold another cookbook in my life, I still would reap a year’s worth of experience in publishing, writing, wine-pairing, recipe testing, networking, marketing, accounting, website design, project management and the importance of work-life balance. Logically, I tell myself that it’s okay that I’m different, that I wanted to take this risk, that it all will be worth it, whatever the outcome is, because all experiences are learning experiences. Emotionally, none of that makes any sense to my poor overworked brain that wants to know what was so wrong with a corporate job with benefits. This part of me doesn’t listen when I tell it that I wouldn’t actually be any happier there, financial security or not.
The world is full of stories of people who made it through this point, and they are all told from the other side of it, when they are swimming in personal glory. They all say how hard it was, but we get to the point where we nod and accept what that means without actually knowing what it means to be there, with your deteriorating bank account, only so many hours in the day, and the need to turn down social engagements because you just can’t afford a nice meal out. It is rare that you hear this side of it: the gritty, what-the-f*ck-am-I-doing side of it that sounds romantic once it’s over but just seems overwhelmingly impossible in the moment.
If you had asked me a couple years ago what experience had shaped me most as a person, I would have unhesitatingly replied that it was my year in Spain, when I painfully learned Spanish in a dialect similar to backwoods Mississippi English. Even more recently I would have said the year+ I spent at Zango, where I decided that I couldn’t live like everyone else after all, in work, lifestyle or love. From the middle of this, I have a feeling it’s going to be my most important formative experience yet – the question is simply what my form will be when I’m through it.

Love and formative kisses

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